Karachi, Pakistan – At least nine people have been killed and dozens others, including paramilitary personnel, wounded after coming under fire from Afghan forces while conducting a population census near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Pakistani security officials said.
The attack on Friday left 33 people wounded and happened near the Chaman crossing point in Pakistan’s Balochistan province prompting security forces to ask people to evacuate villages on the border.
Chaman, one of the two main border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was closed in the wake of the incident, with firing ongoing, Pakistani military spokesman Asif Ghafoor said in a statement.
“Since April 30, Afghan Border Police had been creating hurdles in conduct of census in divided villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir in Chaman area, on Pakistani side of the border,” the statement said.
An Afghan spokesman from the Kandahar police, Ghurzang Afridi, told DPA news agency that the Pakistani census team had worked on the Afghan side of the border.
Pakistan is currently conducting the second phase of its first door-to-door population census in 19 years, with more than 100,000 enumerators and 200,000 troops taking part in the exercise.
The lead-up to the census has been marked by political debate on how the results may show changing demographics – potentially redrawing electoral constituencies – across the country.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a roughly 2,500km-long border, which runs through mountainous terrain and remains largely unpoliced.
Recent Pakistani attempts to establish fences and border posts along the border to curtail the movement of Taliban fighters into Pakistan have been met with resistance from Afghanistan, which disputes the border.
In February, Pakistan sealed all border crossings with Afghanistan for over a month after a wave of attacks across Pakistan killed more than 100 people.
Those attacks were followed by frequent skirmishes between Pakistani Taliban fighters and Pakistan’s military along the border in the Mohmand, Khyber and other districts.
On March 20, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the reopening of the border crossings.
Since the census was launched in March, government census teams have also come under attack from Taliban fighters.
On April 5, a census team was hit by an explosion in the eastern city of Lahore, killing at least six people.
Two government census workers were also killed when a blast hit a passing passenger van in the northwestern Kurram district on April 25.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Additional reporting by Al Jazeera Web Correspondent Asad Hashim in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.
Source: Al Jazeera News